This year Chopard celebrates 25 years of its watch Manufacture and will see celebrations and launches reflecting the incredible capabilities of the house happening throughout the year.
The iconic L.U.C watch is being introduced in a number of new variations this year that celebrate the expertise of the house, and there is a clear focus on honouring the incredible capabilities of Chopard as a watchmaker and also its ability to combine watchmaking with high jewellery design.
Leading the men’s watch segment of the business is Co-President Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, alongside his sister Caroline who is also Co-President, looking after the women’s offering. Karl has been closely involved in the company his whole life. At the age of 22, he designed the House’s first sports watch and has since built the watchmaking side of the business taking it to the next level. Since creating the Chopard Manufacture 25 years ago, Karl has been pushing the boundaries by working with new ground-breaking materials and continuing to further develop the sustainability capabilities of the company. This year Chopard presented a number of new novelties as part of Watches & Wonders 2021 and here we discover more as well as a first look at what’s to come for the rest of this year.
What are some of the highlights from the recent edition of Watches & Wonders that you can share with us?
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Chopard Manufacture, we developed a new complication and presented our first jumping-hour timepiece, the L.U.C Quattro Spirit 25 with a dial entirely handcrafted by our enamelling artisan. It is a classic must-have masterpiece combining Haute Horlogerie and Métiers d’Art, featuring an ethical 18-carat gold case inspired by the pocket watches of Louis-Ulysse Chopard. With a generous power reserve of up to eight days, enabled by the exclusive Chopard Quattro technology, it is one of the rare jumping-hour watches with such a degree of autonomy. It is a 100-piece limited series.
We also introduced the first Chopard Qualité Fleurier certified piece in stainless steel, the L.U.C QF Jubilee. This timepiece sums up the three core values of the L.U.C collection, namely technical performance, aesthetic refinement and an enduring attachment to certified watchmaking. The exclusive 25-piece limited series embodies this triptych of excellence and is the first L.U.C stainless steel timepiece with Quality Fleurier Foundation certification. It was very well received especially amongst the younger generation. We also unveiled the L.U.C Perpetual Chrono, a rare perpetual
calendar Chronograph combination in titanium; the ideal watch for collectors who are not willing to buy gold or platinum but still wish for a precious material on the wrist. It is limited to 20 pieces. In addition, we introduced the Chopard iconic Traveller watches, the L.U.C GMT One Black and the L.U.C Time Traveller One black, the world’s first GMT and Worldtime watches in ceramised titanium; a creative material in Haute Horlogerie obtained by oxidising titanium through electro-plasma technology. The L.U.C GMT One Black and the L.U.C Time Traveller One Black, dedicated to Millennials, are dressed in a powerful black theme that offers a strong presence on the wrist.
Tell us about this important year for the L.U.C watches and what can we expect to see from the celebrations throughout the year?
It is indeed an important year for the L.U.C watches. As you can see, we are celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Chopard Manufacture with an array of timepieces that reaffirm the innovation, creativity, and independence of Chopard. In 1996, when I embarked on the Manufacture journey, my ambition was to create movements of unrivalled technical innovation with sublime aesthetic quality respecting watchmaking tradition, to receive both COSC and Poinçon de Geneve certifications. Since then, we have achieved a lot including numerous industry awards, such as the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Geneve (GPHG) that we won for the L.U.C Full strike in 2017 and of which we are very proud. Throughout the year we will unveil new exceptional L.U.C pieces and are hoping that the sanitary conditions will get better soon so that we can organize a physical celebration in Geneva next year.
Tell us about the current strategy of the watches division at Chopard and have you changed anything since the global pandemic?
Our strategy consists of preserving our independence and pursuing verticalization in terms of production. We intend to continue improving the quality of our movements by focusing on the size, precision, and traditional aesthetics. We will always seek technical innovation and advanced materials. With the global pandemic, we transformed almost overnight into a digital company with regards to distribution and communication – to an extent we never expected! We had to rethink our sales approach and get onboard with the digital world as we witnessed e-commerce thriving. However, online retailing still represents only a relatively small percentage of the Chopard Group’s business and there is potential for growth in some parts of the world, which we are working on developing.
As you said digital expansion has been crucial this year – tell us more about how Chopard has developed its digital strategy and what is still to be done?
Digital is nowadays crucial for communicating with customers. We value online communication as an important sales tool and as a leading luxury brand, Chopard needs to have a strong presence online. So far, we operate four Chopard e-boutiques in the USA, UK, France and Germany and we are evaluating further opportunities. Chopard is present with selected creations on Farfetch, T-Mall and NET-A-PORTER, marking an important partnership for our Maison with a global luxury online retailer. It is true that many clients search for information and then shop online. Our website and e-commerce platforms are always evolving. Last year, we also developed a digital way of doing business; our boutique staff could reach out to clients at home so they could connect with the Chopard boutique nearby. This way we managed to stay close to our customers. However, I would like to highlight that most of our clients still prefer to purchase in a traditional boutique environment to enjoy a “physical” shopping experience.
What is in the pipeline for the second half of the year?
One of the highlights of this year is, of course, our new global Happy Diamonds campaign with Julia Roberts and we are very excited about it. Another key moment this year is the 25th anniversary of the Chopard Manufacture. We will keep on revealing some very special L.U.C timepieces to complete the collection during the second half of the year. Soon, we will also have our yearly rendezvous with the Mille Miglia race in June and the Cannes Film Festival in July.
We know how important ethical production is to the House – tell us how this is adapted in the watch division?
Ethics has always been an important part of our family philosophy. In 2013, we embarked on the Journey to Sustainable Luxury, an ambitious long-term commitment dedicated to making a positive difference in the luxury business. The year 2018 was a special milestone as it was then that we committed to using 100% Ethical gold for the creation of all our watches and jewellery. This is a bold endeavour, but one that we must pursue if we are to make a difference in the lives of the people who make our business possible. As you can see from our novelties presented this year, all the gold watches are made, without exception, from ethical gold. Our ethical gold is sourced through two transparent and traceable schemes: Through RJC-certified refineries or artisanal and small-scale mines which represent today 40% of our fine gold sourcing.
I believe that the future of watchmaking will continuously push noble materials to the limits in terms of precision and scale. If you remember in 2019, with the launch of our Alpine Eagle Collection, we introduced a completely new type of steel: the Lucent steel A223. Produced with an ethical approach, this unique and precious alloy was the product of four years of research. Chopard Lucent Steel A223 is made from 70% recycled metals in a state-of-the-art workshop located in Austria. The process minimizes the carbon footprint of shipping materials to Chopard’s Swiss workshops and it is 50% harder than other steels. It is also anti-allergenic, making it comparable in quality to surgical steel.
Over the last eight years, we have achieved several landmark steps and we are continuously aiming to increase our sustainability approach regarding every aspect of the business. In these challenging times, it is capital that the luxury industry leads the way for more transparency.
We succeeded because, more than 40 years ago, we developed vertically integrated in-house production, and invested in mastering all crafts internally; from creating a rare in-house gold foundry as early as 1978 to the integration of the skills of High Jewellery artisans and expert watchmakers. There is still a lot to be done on our Journey to Sustainable Luxury and we hope to continue leading the way in this regard while remaining extremely humble.
We know you are working with some exciting new materials this year- what can you tell us about that?
We have introduced two models in ceramised titanium. The use of ceramised grade 5 titanium for the L.U.C Time Traveler One Black and the L.U.C GMT one black marks a world first for GMT and world time watches and reflects Chopard’s ongoing commitment to harnessing the most innovative materials in the advancement of Fine Watchmaking. Used in areas such as aerospace, automotive and medical component manufacturing, ceramised titanium is obtained by oxidizing surface layers of titanium at extreme temperatures using electroplasma technology. This process improves the metal’s hardness – 700 Vickers (Hv) – along with its friction coefficient as well its wear and corrosion resistance and it is also highly biocompatible.
What in your opinion, is the recipe to successfully blending the worlds of Watchmaking and High Jewellery?
It requires exceptional skill for High Jewellery traditions to meet watchmaking expertise. Chopard brings together its twofold expertise as a watchmaker and a jeweller in the L’Heure du
L.U.C Perpetual Chrono
Diamant collection. When all the codes of aesthetic excellence converge, perfection gives way to pure emotion. It is in this spirit that the L’Heure du Diamant collection sums up the wealth of artistic crafts cultivated within Chopard, by artisans ranging from master watchmakers to gem-setters. The collection is reinvented this year in a new cushion-shaped watch made of ethical 18-carat white gold with a mother-of-pearl dial and rimmed with diamonds. This creation features the emblematic tree bark-textured gold bracelet sculpted using a proprietary technique and beats to the rhythm of the Chopard 09.01-C self-winding movement.
The fields of watchmaking and jewelry overlap and share the power to create emotion through outstanding craftsmanship; today we have reached the highest levels of excellence in both industries. The story of my family and Chopard is built on the legacies of watches and jewelry. A distinctive characteristic of our creations is that they are all the fruit of an artisan’s skill and of our desire to pass down these ancestral crafts from one generation to the next.
How do you think Chopard watches stand out from others in the market?
Chopard has mastered the combination of mechanics and arts to present exceptional timepieces made of 100% ethical gold, with innovative designs, highest quality, and precision.
The business has been in the family for many years now what is your vision for the future and how is Chopard appealing to the younger generations?
Being a family-owned, independent company is one of our main strengths and this is an advantage and something we want to remain. As one of the last family Maisons in the Haute Horlogerie and Haute Joaillerie field, we can pursue long-term visions and projects without having to please investors seeking short-term profit. While we put a lot of emphasis on innovation and creativity, we strongly believe that tradition, respect of heritage and exceptional artisanship contribute to our success. We develop collections with passion. When entering a Chopard boutique, customers can feel the family dimension. This enables us to provide a privileged contact and added “customer experience”, which is also the case inside our Manufacture, where our staff members appreciate the “family atmosphere”.
We also want to continue to innovate in every aspect of our business. It is not about producing as many watches as we can, but rather about ever-increasing our quality and customer satisfaction. As for the younger generations, nowadays they are more conscious of the environmental and social impact of their purchase decisions and are more likely to buy from a brand that resonates with their own personal values. At Chopard, we always have them in mind not only through our communication approach but also via our designs, innovative recycled materials, and use of ethical gold.
What is the biggest challenge you face today?
We want to make sure that the younger generation, is also watch and jewellery conscious and appreciates mechanical timepieces and the skills and crafts that are behind all our products. Foresight is the key to success in a world of innovation. We always keep an eye on the horizon. We have enabled a link between the past and the future; between Louis-Ulysse Chopard and the next generation of watchmakers and artisans. It has always been our desire to connect the heritage, traditions, and savoir-faire of our history with a spirit of technical innovation and modern design to make the Chopard name even more meaningful and relevant for the next generation. Our focus has never been on the short-term but on long-term stability, independence and the authenticity needed to create a singular watchmaking voice for the next 25 years and beyond.
What is a major challenge you have faced throughout your career and how did you overcome it?
I believe a recent major and surprising challenge was facing an unprecedented pandemic and not knowing where the world is going. This uncertainty was a real trial for everyone, our teams around the world and indeed my family.
Establishing the Chopard Manufacture was an important undertaking as well. In 1994, we launched a project to become once again a fully integrated movement manufacturer – and in 1996 Chopard Manufacture was founded. Today we control every step of the process from research and development, production of components, movement assembly and setting all the way to movement encasing. All our L.U.C timepieces receive a certification such as Poinçon de Genève (Geneva Seal), COSC or Qualité Fleurier. Now, 25 years later, we are proud of the results achieved and, of course, we are not done yet! In the beginning, it was a bold decision that was not necessarily financially viable from a short-term perspective, but this project meant a lot to me, and at Chopard, we are working on a long-term vision. Later on, the independence aspect, which prompted me to work on vertical integration, became important. Indeed, independence is priceless. And remaining independent is always a challenge in the world we live in today.
What is something you would still like to achieve that you haven’t done yet?
Developing and sustaining a company is an ongoing process, a long-term journey, and achievements along the way are welcome milestones. They are like summits that you reach and behind there are new ones appearing. One of those is to make sure Chopard remains a relevant brand for the future!